BRIDGETON, MO. (KPLR) – A group of north St. Louis county residents met Tuesday night to discuss what they believe is a radioactive hazard in their midst. It is a story that has its roots in the Manhattan Project, the World War II program that led to the first atomic bomb. Uranium was enriched in St. Louis during that project, and for many years that followed. The problem is the waste that was created.
There were several dumping sites. One near Lambert Airport and Coldwater Creek may be the best known. Radiation hazard signs remain around the site on the northern edge of the airport. While some cleanup has been done there, critics say none has taken place at the West Lake landfill off St. Charles Rock Road. One fear is illness.
“It’s a fact that uranium and thorium have been seeping into the creek. It’s a fact,” concerned resident Karen Nickel said. “And whether that ties to the people that have been sick, I don’t know. But I don’t want thirty more years to go by and find out that my kids are now sick from toxic waste coming from the landfill.”
Nickel says she is ill, and believes radioactive material is the cause.
“I have lupus, and I don’t want my kids to be sick, especially from something that possibly made me sick thirty years ago. The same, exact thing. It’s the same exact stuff.”
The stuff got to the landfill on the Rock Road, according to environmentalist Kay Drey, after an abandoned dumping site in Hazelwood was addressed back in 1973.
“They discovered there was a lot of highly radioactive stuff just sitting there so they trucked it to West Lake landfill next to Earth City and just dumped it there, right in the flood plain of the Missouri River.”
The flood plain location is the bigger issue to environmental groups. Many fear a major flood could get under the capped dumping site, bringing the radioactive material into the Missouri, and in turn, city and county water supplies.
Washington University Professor, Dr. Bob Criss, says there are a litany of problems with radioactive material being buried at the West Lake location.
“The site is geologically absurd. So we’re left with that because the material was put there illegally in the first place, but it is the wrong place for this type of material. Now how bad it is, I’m saying we’re information poor.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is promising more testing to answer those questions, along with a public meeting of its own in January to update residents on progress.
Nickel says they need to get moving.
“We just want some answers. We want to know what’s being done to help get this underway. Get this cleaned up “